Felix Trattoria (Venice, CA)

Felix Trattoria
1023 Abbot Kinney Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90291
Dining date: 3/30/18

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Felix has been one of the most popular restaurants in the city since opening almost a year ago. Here, Evan Funke (Rustic Canyon, Bucato) is getting a lot of attention for his pasta program which is regarded as one of the best in the city. The pasta making room is showcased with a direct view from the dining room, where diners can see the exacting precision and attention to detail that goes into each and every bite.

Between two of us, we shared one appetizer and each ordered a pasta and main course.

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Sunny Spot (Venice, CA)

Sunny Spot
822 Washington Blvd
Venice, CA 90292
Dining date: 4/15/12

sunny spot exterior

Sunny Spot, to me, is an unexpected concept from Korean chef Roy Choi, a Venice “roadside cookshop” serving full-flavored Caribbean grub. Choi (whom I just met for the first time last week) is most famous for bringing the Kogi truck to the streets, as well as “modern picnic” A-Frame and rice bowl-based Chego. I’m a fan of Roy Choi’s food so this place has been on my radar since opening late last year.

I haven’t had a lot of Caribbean food at all, so I was intrigued to find something new. The menu is fairly lengthy, offering around 8 starters, 9 entrees, and 6 side dishes from around the region. Everything is served family style. Like other Choi ventures, it’s not short of personality with dish names such as ‘what a jerk wings,’ ‘cash money fried calamari,’ and ‘muh-f*k*n mofongo.’ Would the food have as much personality as the descriptions?

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YUCCA FRIES with banana Thai basil ketchup

fries

The yucca fries were cut thick (just the way I like them!) with a consistency very much like French fries. The dipping sauce is what separated the dish, having a sweet (banana) and aromatic (Thai basil) flavor.

MUH-F*K*N MOFONGO plantains, bacon, garlic, black pepper

mofongo

I remember hearing about mofongo on an episode of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives and the word stuck with me ever since. This was my first time having the dish, a creamy and sweet mixture with just a touch of bacon flavor.

CASH MONEY FRIED CALAMARI marinated in coconut milk, tossed with chilis and mint passion fruit sauce

calamari

I found this to be a fairly typical fried calamari, but I did like the sweet passion fruit sauce accompaniment.

BROILED HAMACHI COLLAR garlic-thyme butter, lime, banana chili glaze

hamachi collar

The hamachi collar came next with a nice char; a banana-chili glaze brought the recurring sweet-spicy flavor combination, balanced by a little bit of citrus.

TWO FISTED BURGER tomato jam, arugula, cheddar, herb mayo

burger

The burger came a medium/medium-well temperature (medium rare was requested) so I think it could’ve been juicier. Tomato jam was a difference-maker for me, providing a sort of savory sweetness that balanced well with the arugula.

JAMAICAN ROASTED LAMB with lettuce wedges and pickled mango

lamb

This was probably my favorite dish of the night with hearty lamb chunks bathed in a slightly spicy sauce. Deep, rich flavors. Cool lettuce and pickled mango helped to offset that richness with their cool bite.

YELLOW SALTY RICE

rice

We opted for this side of rice, cooked well with a bit of spice.

WE BE YAMMIN’ sweet potato tart, walnut crust, toasted marshmallow ice cream

we be yammin

HOUSEMADE CARAMELS Maldon sea salt, toasted cashews

caramels

Once we were done with the savories, we ordered two desserts to finish. The sweet potato tart was both interesting and tasty with a sweet, creamy filling and crunchy tart. The toasted marshmallow ice cream was addicting to say the least. I really enjoyed the housemade caramels, which I think I’ve tried before at a bake sale. The chewy caramel was well-balanced with just the right amount of salt and crunchy cashews. Excellent!

Sunny Spot presented a solid meal full of bold flavors centered around the spicy and sweet. It was also something different; a change of pace from much of what I typically eat. Being so inexperienced with Caribbean food, I wonder how close this is to the real thing….though I know Roy Choi isn’t known for doing the traditional.

Gjelina (Venice, CA)

Gjelina
1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd
Venice, CA 90291
Dining date: 7/20/11

I’ve wanted to visit Gjelina for some time now…though, not enough to drive all the way across town. Until now. Opened in 2008, Gjelina has been consistently popular during its lifetime. So popular, in fact, that when making a reservation two weeks in advance, only 6pm and 9pm were available on a random Wednesday night. Consider my interest piqued.

Grilled King Oyster Mushroom with Tarragon Butter, Lemon & Sea Salt

We started with these large mushrooms, grilled to a nice char. Smoky and earthy, they were really heightened by a touch of lemon.

Hamachi Crudo with Santa Rosa Plum, Serrano Chili, Cilantro & Lemon

I thought this dish was very ordinary. The fish was fine, but the accenting chili, cilantro and lemon were too subtle.

Grilled Nantucket Squid with Cavaillon Melon, Celery, Chili & Salsa Verde

 

I liked this dish – tender squid was paired with a little sweetness from the melon, while the chili and salsa verde brightened the dish up.

Braised Pork Meatballs with Tomato & Grilled Bread

These were solid meatballs in a hearty and rich tomato sauce.

Crispy Niman Ranch Pork Belly with Soft Polenta, Bitter Greens & Apple Cider

An excellent dish. The pork was crispy on the outside and meltingly tender on the inside. I liked the addition of the polenta and greens, adding some earthy undertones while the cider helped to cut through the richness of the belly.

Grilled Asparagus, Frisee, Pancetta Vinaigrette & Crispy Fried Egg

This tasted pretty much as advertised, though I was missing some of the pancetta flavor in the vinaigrette.

Wood Roasted ‘Peel n Eat’ Prawns with Garlic, Chili, Parsley & Lemon

Possibly my favorite dish of the night, large prawns came out perfectly roasted. Slightly smoky and slightly spicy, the accompaniments accentuated the shrimp without overpowering.

Miatake Mushroom Toast with Creme Fraiche & Truffle Oil

Another hit, this mushroom toast was pretty delicious. The tender mushrooms went well with the tart crème fraiche and crusty bread.

Slow Roasted Leg of Lamb with Cous Cous, Red Pepper, Spiced Yogurt & Herb Salad

This was our only large plate (the kitchen closed this section of the menu without prior warning) and it was a disappointing one. The lamb was surprisingly dry and overcooked. Not sure what happened here.

Margherita

This was a good pizza with a sweet tomato sauce and a soft, chewy crust. I might’ve preferred it to be a little more crispy on the bottom, though, as it seemed somewhat soggy in the middle. Good, but not particularly memorable.

Guanciale, Green Olive, Fresno Chili, Buffalo Mozzarella

This pizza definitely had a more dynamic flavor profile than the Margherita, with a tasty, meaty pork flavor complemented by heat from the chili and saltiness from the olives. Pretty nice.

Butterscotch Pot de Creme with Salted Caramel & Creme Fraiche

 

Seriously delicious. I thought it was rich (but not overly so) with a really nice depth of flavor. A little bit of salt and whipped creme fraiche were simple and integral accompaniments.

Black Bottom Banana Cream Pie

While I preferred the other dessert, this one held its own. Small chunks of banana filled the pie, which benefitted by being not overwhelmingly banana-y. The cream was pretty light with just the right amount of sweetness.

Gjelina met my expectations (which were pretty high). Most of the plates managed to be interesting and different while staying within familiar Italian flavor profiles. The place is definitely trendy but with proven staying power. I can’t say I’d make a special trip to Venice just to eat here, but it’d definitely be a strong option if I were in the area.